Tennessee House Panel Commits To Full Hearing On Medicaid Expansion

Feb 24, 2020

Insure Tennessee supporters sing during a rally on War Memorial Plaza. Advocates have continued to lobby at the state legislature despite long odds for Medicaid Expansion in the state.
Credit Chas Sisk | WPLN

Medicaid expansion remains a long shot in Tennessee. But a key lawmaker is pledging to give it a fair hearing this year.

Details of the bill haven’t been finalized, but the legislation, sponsored by a Republican in both the House and Senate, has already been assigned to a subcommittee on TennCare. The panel has just one Democrat, but chairman David Hawk, R-Greeneville, says he will give plenty of time and even allow outside witnesses to testify.

“Issues like that are too important to close debate,” he tells WPLN News. “I want to have as many people who want to talk about the issue to be able to discuss that issue.”

So far, a date has not been set for a hearing.

Medicaid expansion is mostly funded by the federal government and in Tennessee would cover more than 200,000 people who make too much to qualify for TennCare coverage. Fourteen states, mostly in the South, have held out, though more are considering expansion. Missouri is considering a ballot measure to expand Medicaid.

Former Governor Bill Haslam attempted to expand Medicaid, rebranding it Insure Tennessee. But the legislation never advanced beyond a senate committee.

Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, and Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, have revived the proposal despite resistance from leaders of the General Assembly. Senate Speaker Randy McNally said he’s not actively working against the bill but expects it will fail.

“I don’t think I’ll have to talk to any members, twist any arms or anything,” he said. “I think they probably have the same concerns that I do.”